EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

A beautiful new middle school at Blair. A beautiful new Sierra Madre Middle School. A state of the art auditorium at Eliot. A state of the art TV studio at Muir. Nice renovations and new additions to McKinley. Beautiful new gyms at McKinley and Washington for the schools and the community to use.  A wonderful new gym at Marshall. And what was the headline in the Pasadena Star News on Sept. 12, courteous of an overzealous Citizens Oversight Committee and a reporter who has consistently written the most critical articles she could write about the PUSD? Illegal spending! A stickler committee has uncovered, gasp, that less than 0.1 percent of bond proceeds was spent on attorney services that they didn’t agree were directly connected to Measure TT. Less than 0.1 percent. What public or private program can anyone point to where the spending is 99.9 percent appropriate?  Crickets. 

This is the culture of the critics of the PUSD. Micromanage down to the smallest fractions of expenses and insist that they are in the right buckets, regardless of the zero practical effect that would have. Insist on perfection or else we will stomp our feet and raise a fuss.

Of course, this has always been true for the critics of PUSD. When with Measure Y the use of construction management companies caused too much soft costs and PUSD staff found questionable spending of a few hundred thousand dollars by those firms on a single contractor or two — about 0.1 percent of the bond — PUSD referred the matter to the Pasadena Police Department which refused to investigate, claiming that records were not good enough, although we in PUSD doubt they ever opened the files. And the critics pounced and huge waste was alleged and scandal was a popular word. Under Measure TT, PUSD staff discovered a few consultants not working the hours they said they did. A total amount of perhaps $30,000. An extraordinarily small percentage of the bond spending. We fired them. The critics pounced again.  Scandal, scandal, scandal!

Now under our excellent facilities chief, the committee can’t find anything quite as egregious. So they go after legal fees paid to firms who represent us on facilities matters during what is not unusual in construction, which is firms suing for more money for change orders or for their losses when we dismiss them or object to their work. Now PUSD has very little facilities funding for normal maintenance, so the overwhelming facilities work that is done in PUSD is through Measure TT projects. But, of course, the committee and its notoriously picky board liaison want everything to be in the right buckets. Because, of course, it is so important that we document each minute of the law firm’s time so as to carefully separate their — gasp — miniscule amount of non-TT-related services from their TT-related services. 

This is the perfectionism of the critics of PUSD. Is the public being well-served by the PUSD in its spending of the public’s Measure TT funds? Yes, as the list of great completed projects shows. But for PUSD’s critics, 99.9 percent is not good enough, apparently..

~ SCOTT PHELPS

MEMBER

PUSD BOARD OF EDUCATION

FROM THE WEB:

Re: “Truly Sick,” Aug. 17   

We cannot be reminded often enough that, in addition to Medicaid, it has been the Republican priority to either privatize or eliminate altogether Medicare, Social Security and public education since their inception. (Regarding public education, that goal is being realized in the form of tax revenue intended for public education increasingly being diverted to charter schools: outsourced, privatized, corporate entities, often religious, often with disproportionately excessive executive pay.)

But my question is, how is Medicaid “not” institutionalized health care apartheid? Is there another developed nation on the planet that “means tests” its citizens for the quality of health care services? Is it not entirely immoral that the least empowered among us receive lesser care based solely on economic standing? American exceptionalism, indeed.

Anyone who believes that health care is a basic human right, especially in as resource-rich a nation as ours, should be appalled; not just by our class-based segregation of life-essential services, but more so by the very real prospect of its elimination altogether — the inevitable outcome of so-called block grants — by the Republican Party that lied its way into office in no small part for its commitment to Medicaid’s preservation.

~GADFLYKE